The team set franchise attendance records the past two years, drawing 65,202 fans last season while having its stadium voted the best Rookie League-level ballpark in the country.
The Cardinals have won four Appalachian League championships over the past eight years.
“It’s a special place right now,” Cards General Manager Zac Clark said Monday. “It’s just a lot of fun. There’s so much energy here.”
Individual game tickets went on sale on Monday and Clark said the phone was already ringing.
The stadium has had several upgrades since August. New lights will be illuminating the field, new box seats will be installed in time for the June 22 home opener, a team store is in the process of being built and a new lounge area will be open on the first base line.
“It’s a few weeks away,” Clark said. “We’re really excited about it, but the thing I’m most proud of is everybody’s just laser-focused right now. There’s a list of things to do and it’s just getting done. I’ve got a great group.”
The new box seats will all have drink holders and ventilated backs. They will also be a little wider than the old ones, which will come in handy especially on “All You Can Eat Wednesdays,” one of the team’s new promotions.
The new seats will be installed next week and will help raise the capacity of the park to around 4,000. Two-hundred seats were removed and 240 are being added. The first-base lounge area will also add to the capacity.
Four giant ceiling fans are going to be added to the grandstand to add a breeze in the crowd on those hot summer nights. Also, 1,500 cup holders are being installed in the general admission seating areas.
Just about every night on the home schedule at the ballpark has a promotion.
— Dollar Monday (Dollar hot dogs, chips, candy and beer).
— Taco Tuesday (Tacos for $2).
— All You Can Eat Wednesday (All-you-can-eat hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos with cheese, chips, soda and a ticket to the game for one price).
— Thirsty Thursday (Dollar sodas and $1, $2, and $3 beer specials).
— Campbell’s Morrell Music Soundoff Saturday (Live music every Saturday night home game on the concourse).
The three big promotions expected to sell out or come close are Margaritaville Night (July 27), Daniel Norris Bobblehead Night (July 28) and Star Wars Night ( Aug 25).
Fans might notice a small black contraption on top of the grandstand roof behind home plate. That’s the TrackMan radar device that allows the team to keep track of location, spin rate and trajectory of pitched and hit baseballs. The data isn’t for fans’ use. The St. Louis Cardinals use it to analyze their prospects.
“It gets launch angles of a home run, distance, exit velocity, bat speed, miles per hour of the pitch,” Clark said. “The analytics that they’re looking at nowadays is unbelievable. The data they get off it is pretty amazing.”
Some interesting analytics have come out of the local rookie-league team in recent years. Jordan Hicks, the St. Louis Cardinals flame thrower, played in Johnson City two years ago.
Hicks has thrown the five fastest pitches in the big league this year, two of them at 105 mph.
“This is a crazy story, but two years ago, Jordan Hicks was pitching a simulated game here and I was on the phone with my uncle, who was also my high school baseball coach,” said Clark, who was the team’s assistant general manager at the time. “He asked ‘What kind of guys are you seeing out there?’ I said ‘This kid on the mound looks pretty good.’
“Now that he’s in the bigs, I guess the adrenaline is there — he’s really pumping it in there.”
Hicks started six games in Johnson City in 2016, going 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA. He struck out 20 batters in 30 innings. He’ll be honored here on July 13 when the Johnson City Cardinals give Jordan Hicks jersey shirts to the first 1,000 fans through the gates.
“St. Louis sends us unbelievable caliber players year in year out,” Clark said. “That’s why we’ve won the number of championships we have. They’re drafting well. The guys mesh. A kid like that, you knew he was going to be good. You didn’t know how good he would be. When you come to the ballpark every night, you’re literally watching the next stars in major league baseball.”